For my newswriting class, our first real assignment was to write a report about one day that changed our lives. Today, we had to present them to the class. This was mine:
My dad used to work away from home a lot. If he worked in one location for more then a few months, my mom and I would join him, and I’d go to school there. I remember staying in Texas a majority of the time. In particular, Orange, Texas.
I was in fourth grade at the time when I met my first best friend. Every day, during recess we would hang out and play X-Men. He was always Archangel. I don’t remember who I played. That didn’t last long, however, as we quickly discovered a new childhood obsession. The year was 1993. The TV show was Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
I remember coming home from school one day and catching a random episode of it on TV. We were staying in a nice apartment at the time, which had cable (something we could never get living in Ringgold). For the first time, I had access to Nickelodeon and all those other channels I never got to watch at home, but none of them mattered. I was instantly enthralled with this Fox Kids show about five teenagers with attitude that put on helmets and spandex to fight super villains every week.
At the time, my best friend would call me every day, and we would talk about what cartoons we had just watched. He caught the show at the exact same time I did, so naturally it was all we could talk about. Who is this crazy looking chick with the giant magic wand? Why do these monsters get so big? Where can I get my own Megazord? I didn’t know it at the time, but this show would spark something within me for years to come.
X-Men was quickly replaced on the playground. Power Rangers consumed us. Sadly, I don’t remember which ranger we would pretend to be, but I’d like to think I was the black one because he had that sweet ax that was also a shotgun. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to reenact our favorite episodes for very long, as my dad finished his work and I moved back home. However, this wasn’t the end of the Power Rangers for me. Not by a long shot.
I had to catch the show every week. It was like a soap opera for a nine year old kid. If you missed one episode, you felt like you missed out on something serious (Did Tommy turn evil again? Did the team get new zords? Will they ever kill off Bulk and Skull?). Even before I had got back home from Orange, it had turned into a worldwide sensation. For the second season premier, they debuted it in the Friday night prime-time slot. As a kid, I felt like it give some legitimacy to the show. It seemed like my show was as important as one of the shows my parents would watch on weekday nights after sending me to bed.
As the series went on, I started getting the toys, watched the movies, played the video games, the whole nine yards. My parents dismissed it as just a silly kid thing, but there was definitely more to it then that. Even when I grew out of it, I still checked in on Power Rangers occasionally (Yes, the show has been running continuously since 1993. It outlasted Friends. Suck on that, grown-ups.) The teams change every year, but the same basic format stays the same. Over the past few years I’ve developed a real interest in how the show gets made.
For those that don’t know, Power Rangers is actually made using a series of Japanese shows called “Super Sentai.” They take all the footage of the characters in helmets and spandex and splice it in with original footage of American actors. For such a cheaply made show, think about how much they make on toy sales alone. As my curiosity always gets the better of me, I actually started watching Super Sentai. It’s amazing how completely different the two are. The action scenes are the same, but the stories are miles apart. (As an example, the original Mighty Morphin’ series used footage from the Super Sentai series “Zyuranger,” whose team consisted not of teenagers, but ancient warriors awakened when an evil witch comes back into power. And the green ranger was the red ranger’s brother…who actually dies before that season ends.)
It really makes you appreciate the dedication it takes to watch through an entire episode of something, edit out all the action segments, then write an entire script that works around those few scenes. The weird part is that Power Rangers is the only show to accomplish this with such success. In Japan, there’s an entire genre of shows that share the Power Rangers/Super Sentai formula. Some of them are even targeted at adults instead of children.
As I watch more and more of these shows, I think about how much I’d love to see America come up with it’s own original weekly live-action superhero show. This is actually one reason why I’m a film student. I want to know how they cram all those awesome effects in, and balance it out with genuine character development on a weekly basis.
I don’t watch Power Rangers as much these days as much as I do its Super Sentai counterpart. But I still check in when I can. The newest season, “Power Rangers Samurai” re-uses that old intro theme from the Mighty Morphin’ days. And when I hear it, I can’t help but remember that little 4th grader in Orange, Texas staring at a crappy TV screen in wonderment, taking in everything he can like a sponge.
That’s how Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers changed my life.
I actually got a few laughs from the class as I was reading it. After I finished a few chimed in things like “My favorite was the white ranger” or “I always played the pink ranger.” Kinda made my day.